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Cities and climate – what’s the connection?

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For the first time in human history, over half of the world’s population lives in cities. And urban populations are expected to reach six billion by 2050! Cities and urban areas are also responsible for around 70% of global CO2 emissions, from energy consumption in buildings and transport, waste and water services, industrial processes – as well as citizen consumption choices. Urbanization and climate change are thus inherently interlinked.

Equally, cities are vulnerable to climate change. They contain wide expanses of non-porous surfaces, exacerbating flood risk and urban heat island from extreme weather events. In short, cities contribute to climate change and cities are vulnerable to its consequences. But, increasingly cities also act on climate change.

Local governments – often in partnership with businesses or civil society – are showing leadership on the development and dissemination of low-carbon solutions through progressive policies and actions. Cities act individually to address climate change, as well as collectively, for example within the Global Covenant of Mayors which brings together 7500 mayors who commit to strong climate action. To unleash their potential however, cities need the legal mandates to act and the resources, finances and capacity to do so even more.

Acting on climate change in cities also comes with co-benefits. Cities can improve the quality of life of their citizens while simultaneously reducing environmental impact via smarter alternatives for energy, transport or building standards, affecting huge numbers of people. Cities make climate actions tangible – in the form of solar panels, bike lanes or green roofs. And by doing so, they can engage their citizens to also be part of the solution, for example by choosing to leave their car behind to hop on their bike or the bus, so long as such systems are affordable, efficient and safe.

One Planet City Challenge

WWF is committed to increasing local political leadership, public engagement and entrepreneurship to transform cities towards becoming One Planet Cities – cities that enable all people to thrive and prosper while respecting the ecological limits of our one and only planet. WWF created the One Planet City Challenge (OPCC) to highlight city climate solutions, and recognize and reward cities that are busy putting them to use. These are cities that aim to provide sustainable housing, transportation, and energy for their residents, while acting as role models for cities around the globe.

The OPCC invites cities to report ambitious, innovative climate actions and to demonstrate how they are delivering on the Paris Agreement. Data is entered on the carbonn Climate Registry and outreach and support is provided in collaboration with ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability. Plans and data are then reviewed by an international expert jury to identify outstanding national and global OPCC winners which are awarded at a global prize ceremony. Since the OPCC’s inception in 2011, WWF has engaged over 450 cities across 5 continents.

In 2016, Montería, Colombia, was the national OPCC winner, in part for its Green City 2019 plan, which included 26 actions to address 15 challenges, including on urban mobility, energy, waste management, adaptation and resilience.

Want to know more about how local governments can help national governments meet, or exceed, their climate commitments under the Paris Agreement? Join the Mayor of Montería, together with local and national government representatives from Colombia, Peru and Mexico, for a dialogue on Urban Climate Actions to advance implementation of Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) at WWF’s PandaHub at UNFCCC COP23 on Monday, 13 November at 14:30pm.

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